I’ll bet you 20 bucks that your resume is not effectively using graphic highlighting.
Wait, what is graphic highlighting even?!
Don’t worry, if you’re not even sure what that is, you’re just like 95% of resume writers out there – but we’re here to help!
Let’s start with an example. This part of the sentence is not important at all, but this part is super important.
See that? Notice how your eye naturally read the part in bold, and the rest as the afterthought? Which is actually opposite of the order of importance?
That is what many of you do on your resumes.
Remember, your potential employer has a stack of resumes twelve inches thick. He’s not going to snuggle up with a cup of coffee to read each one in depth. He’s got to pare down that stack first – and he’s going to do that by quickly scanning each resume for what is important.
Kind of like you are right now.
According to recent research, we usually read differently online than we do on paper. There have been several similar studies on this topic lately – with the internet faster and bigger than ever, with hundreds of thousands of blog posts, newspaper articles, and websites to choose from and daily drenching of different ads, emails, and sites vying for attention, people are increasingly picky about what they read. They are inundated with options and, since there are only 24 hours in a day, they have to decide what’s worth reading and what simply takes too much mental effort. And guess what? They choose what’s worth reading by skimming the first few paragraphs.
Again, this is pretty much what your potential employer will do with that stack of resumes on his desk.
So how long do I have? might be your next question. Six minutes? Three minutes? One minute?
Wrong and wrong. One study found that on average, recruiters spend six seconds looking at your resume.
Yes you heard right. Not six minutes. Six seconds.
Basically, you have six seconds to capture their attention and get your resume out of that abominable stack.
You just spend ten or fifteen hours (or more!) making this single piece of paper as gorgeous and perfect as possible and it turns out that it will get little more than a brief eye flicker from the very employer you so hopefully crafted your life’s accomplishments on a piece of paper for!
Okay, don’t panic.
It’s going to be okay. Actually, it’s going to be better than okay – you can use this newfound knowledge to your advantage.
Those six seconds? You can take them back – with graphic highlighting.
Graphic highlighting is a way to force the reader’s eye to the parts of the page you absolutely want her to see. It’s the best use of their six seconds. It is using the employer’s laziness (okay, more like busyness) to your advantage.
It’s the way resumes work.
So – how do you do it correctly? This is really important stuff! And it has the chance to REVOLUTIONIZE your resume, get the job interview, and land that perfect job.
Here are FIVE tips for making your resume the perfect eye-catcher:
1. If it won’t help you get the job, don’t include it.
It may be tempting to look like you have a LOT of credentials – (in fact, you just might have a lot of credentials!) – but it doesn’t mean you should stuff all of them on the page in an attempt to look accomplished. Only include the most relevant credentials for the job. If you have more, you can mention them during your interview.
It basically means your best, clean cut and pared down. Less is more.
2. Make the hiring manager look where you want them to look – at your strengths.
This one’s a no brainer-but you’d be surprised at how many resumes don’t utilize this simple trick! What areas did you excel in your job? Why did your fellow employees respect you? What did you accomplish?
3. Keep it organized
Clean lines and plenty of white space can be punctuated with graphic highlighting marching neatly down the page – perhaps each of your job titles, if those are most impressive, or as the first phrase in each of several bullet points. Make it aesthetically pleasing in a simple, sharp way.
4. Don’t overdo it
A resume that is mostly bold will come across a little desperate. Pick only the most striking phrases, titles, or sentences – and keep it to three to five at most. Also, there is no need to highlight, italicize, AND bold the important things. It looks kind of tacky. Just one is usually fine – bold usually sends the strongest message and catches the eye the most easily. Italics emphasize well, but don’t catch the eye right away. Underlining often makes a resume look messy and disorganized.
And for heaven’s sake DON’T PUT SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS. IT COMES ACROSS LIKE SHOUTING AND NO ONE WANTS TO HIRE SOMEONE WITH A BAD TEMPER!
Keep the highlighting legible. By this I mean when the employer glances at your resume, he or she should immediately be able, by reading only your graphically highlighted phrases, to picture a coherent whole. (For an example, read back over the last several bolded phrases in this post: “look at your strengths” “make it aesthetically pleasing” “bold usually sends the strongest message.” And “keep the highlighting legible” and “picture a coherent whole” read in succession form a tidy list of bullet points explaining how to use graphic highlighting. Even if each bolded phrase isn’t the first in the sentence, using bold effectively organizes the steps for our brain to understand and file away.
5. Think like an employer — review your resume with fresh eyes
Pretend like you are the potential boss, looking over your own resume. What stands out? Does it impress YOU? Have you highlighted the RIGHT places?
Good stuff, right? Well, get to work! Your resume is looking great!
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